2021 Africa Cup of Nations has been launched and Senegal are one of its participants. They have taken part in half of all the editions of Africa Cup of Nations held to this date. They are a team to think about twice, and here, we are to see who the best Senegalese footballers of all time are.
Before anything else, we should say that although we are not to Senegal best football players in 2021, two top Senegalese footballers in 2021, namely Sadio Mane and Kalidou Koulibaly, are also on our list of
best Senegalese footballers of all time
Senegal players in Premier League like Sadio Mane again, El Hadji Diouf, and Henri Camara are also on the list. In fact, playing in the Premier League has been taken as a token of their professionalism, as it’s really so, although it’s not the only meter we have taken into account.
A combination of Senegal best football players in 2021, Senegal players in Premier League, and a few other top Senegalese footballer actually comprise our list of best Senegalese footballers of all time. Let’s see who they are.
One of the two goalkeepers on the list of best Senegalese footballers of all time, Tony Sylva is a 46-year-old retired goalkeeper who actually spent 15 years of his 17-year career in the top and second top tiers of the French football league system - Ligue 1 and 2 actually - serving the French clubs, Monaco, Gazelec, Epinal, Ajaccio, and Lille in the process. He also served theSenegalese national team
between for nine years between 1999 and 2008 where he managed to make 83 appearances for them.
Sylva was actually part of the Senegal national team in 2002 FIFA World Cup who beat France 1-0 in group stage and advanced to the competition’s quarterfinals; a rarity for an African national team that nevertheless they achieved. In general, the retired Senegalese goalkeeper made 276 appearances both at club and international level and received 253 goals which translates to almost one goal (exactly 0.91) in every appearance he made during his career. He also collected 110 clean sheets - almost 2 in every 5 appearances - and received only 4 yellow cards during this time. Sylva also took part in four editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 editions, and the most number of goals he received in the major African cup was in a match against Angola in the 2008 edition where he received 3 goals before the 90th minutes.
Maybe Sylva was not such a highlighted goalkeeper to provoke a pundit’s comments on his goalkeeping style, however, the sole fact that he guarded Senegal’s goal in a winning group-stage match against France in 2002 FIFA World Cup, especially in the second half that the French threw everything they had at the opposition’s goal to make a breakthrough and rescue themselves from the shame of losing to an African team with no avail of course, proves that he was some kind of a top goalkeeper to even parry shots from the then top French forward,David Trezeguet
, and stand unbeaten in the face of relentless French attacks.
Maybe the sole fact that the top Premier League club, Chelsea, has recently signed him - actually since 2020 - for a considerable fee of almost $30 million and he’s been part of the club’s first team since he has joined them managing to collect 16 clean sheets in 31 appearances in his first season with them tells us all about Edouard Mendy and why he is on the list of best Senegalese footballers of all time. He’s, in fact, among the top
Senegalese footballers in 2021
, too, considering that he was named both UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year and best FIFA goalkeeper in 2021.
Mendy is actually both a citizen of France and Senegal, however, when it came to choosing a national team he chose Senegal. He was Senegal’s first-team goalkeeper in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations ending the competition as runner-up with his team. Till this date, Mendy has made a total of 16 appearances for the Senegalese national team receiving 6 goals and collecting 10 clean sheets in the process which is not bad stats considering that he has received only one goal in every 2.6 appearances and has collected one clean sheet in every 1.6 games averagely.
About Mendy’s playstyle, we should say that the 29-year-old Senegalese goalkeeper is a physically dominant one who asserts himself in his zone of control and due to his tall stature often takes part in aerial battles against opposition forwards and comes out victorious! His stats at Rennes - the club he served before Chelsea - confirm that: 75.3% of Mendy’s saves during the past season (2019-20) withRennes
were successful which means he made 2.5 successful saves per game averagely, the highest in Ligue 1 in the past season. He’s also good with his feet completing 51.4% of all his over-40-yard passes which equals that of the top Brazilian goalkeeper, Ederson. In the past season (2019-20), Mendy claimed 10.2% of the crosses sent to his box which is even higher than cross-claiming percentages of Alisson and Ederson - 8.1% and 6.9%, respectively. Do these stats mean a brighter future for Mendy? We shall wait and see.
The first forward on the list of best Senegalese footballers of all time, Mamadou Niang is a 42-year-old retired Senegalese footballer who played for eight clubs during his career with the most prominent of which being the Ligue 1 club, Marseille. Mamadou also played for the Senegalese national team between 2002 and 2012 taking part in three editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 2002, 2004, and 2006 editions, and scoring 20 goals in the 59 appearances he made for them across all competitions - almost one goal in every three appearances.
At club level, Mamadou Niang scored a total of 167 goals in 448 appearances which means he scored a little bit more than one goal (exactly 1.11) in every 3 club appearances averagely. He actually bloomed while playing in Ligue 1 having earned all his individual honors in the same league with one of them being Ligue 1 top scorer in 2009-10 season; the last season that he served Marseille and scored a total of 18 goals in 32 appearances as their captain. The season after - we mean 2010-11 season, Mamadou was transferred to the Turkish club,Fenerbahce
, for a transfer fee of $9 million, where he managed to score his first hat-trick for the Turkish club in his 5th appearance for them and scored a total of 16 goals in 29 appearances for them helping his club win the Turkish Super League title in the same season.
Another forward on the list of
best Senegalese footballers of all time
, Henri Camara is a 44-year-old retired Senegalese footballer who served more than 15 clubs during his career including Celtic, West Ham United, and Southampton whom he served on loan. He also served the Senegalese national team from 1999 to 2008 making 99 appearances and scoring 29 goals for them in the process. Two of these goals were actually scored in 2002 FIFA World Cup where Senegal stunned everyone by reaching the competition’s quarter-finals. And the rest? Well, most of them Camara scored in different editions of Africa Cup of Nations or in friendlies.
What is quite interesting about Henri Camara is that he’s both the most capped Senegalese footballer with 99 caps and Senegal top scorer of all time with 29 goals, however, the top Seneglese forwards, Sadio Mane and El Hadji Diouf, are very close to him in both respects and since they are still in the business, they may take him over soon either concerning the number of caps or international goals. Despite the fact that Camara was a key player for Senegal in 2002 FIFA World Cup, he never won an international or even club trophy during his career.
The only passed footballer on the list of best Senegalese footballers of all time, Papa Bouba Diop was a Senegalese defender and defensive midfielder who died in November 2020 at the very early age of 42 and because of a neurological disease known as ALS which actually affects motor neurons resulting in their loss. Diop’s club career actually lasted for 17 years between 1996 and 2013 during which he served some European clubs likeGrasshoppers
, Fulham, and West Ham United. He also served the Senegalese national team between 2001 and 2008 taking part in four editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 editions, and also 2002 FIFA World Cup with them making 63 appearances and scoring 11 goals for them in the process.
It might be interesting for you to know that the single goal Senegal scored against France in the 2002 FIFA World group stage which actually humiliated the European team and the championship defenders to the extent that they couldn’t even advance from the group stage was scored by Papa Bouba Diop. He also scored two other goals against Uruguay to become at least the top scorer of his team in the same tournament with 3 goals.
Nicknamed “wardrobe” for his tall stature - he was 1.96m tall, Diop was often compared to his fellowman and the then Arsenal star, Patrick Viera, in playstyle. Actually his tall stature made him look like an imposing figure on the pitch, but of course, there was more to his game than that. He was not only composed on the ball at least for a player of his stature but also had a good pace which made him difficult to stop when he started a run. It was actually these qualities that made him fit for the Premier League at the time.
The oldest footballer on the list of best Senegalese footballers of all time, Roger Mendy is a 61-year-old retired Senegalese footballer who is mostly known for his 3-year service to the top Ligue 1 club,AS Monaco
and reaching UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final with them in 1992 . Mendy is among the African footballer who have spent all their career within Europe, though except for Monaco, the three other clubs he served were from lower-tier leagues. Mendy also served the Senegalese national team between 1979 and 1995 making 87 appearances for them in the process which has made him the second most capped Senegalese footballer of all time, Although Sadio Mane with 83 caps is very near to him and probable to take him over.
30 years old and having been serving the Serie A club, Napoli, since 2014, Kalidou Koulibaly is another defender - actually center back - on our list of
best Senegalese footballers of all time
. Koulibaly was born in France and also served France U20 national team for a year but he’s also from Senegalese origin and he has actually chosen to serve Senegal senior national team having made a total of 53 appearances for them since 2015 to this date.
Unlike some other footballers on the list who have won few awards or nothing during their careers,Koulibaly
has some individual awards to his name the most prominent of which are Senegal Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018 and Serie A Best Defender in 2018-19 season. He also represented Senegal in 2018 FIFA World Cup and was part of the same Senegalese national team who finished as runners-up in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Nicknamed “the Wall” by his fans for his solidity in defense which sometimes gets over-solid due to his making too many fouls - that also has drawn criticism from pundits, Koulibaly is a physically strong defender with a large stature who completes his solid defense through clever positioning, aerial prowess, and top passing abilities which can also be used for playmaking from behind.
Considered as one of the best West African footballers of all time, Jules Bocande is a passed Senegalese footballer who was also called an African Football legend by CAF in 2009. He actually served eight clubs during his career the most prominent of which was the top French club, PSG, whom he served in 1986-87 season making 38 appearances and scoring 6 goals for them in the process. But don’t you think that he always scored that little. In fact, in the season previous to 1986-87 season when he served another Ligue 1 club, namely Metz, he became the French league top scorer with 23 goals. Bocande also served the Senegalese national team between 1979 and 1993 taking part in three editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely 1986, 1990, and 1992 editions, with them and scoring 20 goals in 73 appearances for them across all competitions.
Although he’s not among the current
Senegal players in Premier League
, El Hadji Diouf served the top Premier League club, Liverpool, sometime during his 17-year career which lasted from 1998 to 2015. In fact, he served eleven clubs during his career among which are other European clubs like Leeds United and Rennes. Diouf also served the Senegalese national team between 2000 and 2008 taking part in four editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008, editions finishing as runner-up with them in the first edition (2002). He was also part of the Senegalese national team who beat France 1-0 in 2002 FIFA World Cup and advanced to the competition’s quarter-finals. He actually scored 24 goals in his 70 appearances for his country’s national team which translates to around one goal in every three appearances.
Unlike other footballers already mentioned on the list, Diouf was known for his bad temper and unreasonable behavior on the pitch. Spitting at opposition’s players and even fans was a common practice for him and add to it taunting and the fact that he was a friend of the former Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, to have a player most hated by all fans! Despite this, he is the only Senegalese footballer to have been named on FIFA 100 list by the Brazilian legend, Pele. He has also been named African Footballer of the Year in 2001 and 2002. On the pitch, the 41-year-old retired Senegalese footballer was a pacey and strong player with quick thinking who not only could play as a forward but also as a winger and a right-side midfielder.
Not only among the current Senegal players in Premier League but also among the best Senegalese footballers in 2021, Sadio Mane is the current Liverpool’s 29-year-old forward who’s been serving the Premier League club since 2016. Although a product of the Senegalese club, Generation Foot, Sadio Mane has never served a Senegalese or African club to this date; he has served the four European clubs, Metz,Red Bull Salzburg
, Southampton, and Liverpool in the chronological order since the start of his career in 2011 with Liverpool being the club he has served the most; actually 5 years till now.
Mane has also served the Senegalese national team since 2012 having made 84 appearances and scored 28 goals for them in the process - almost one goal in every three appearances. He was actually part of the Senegalese national in 2018 FIFA World Cup and took part in three editions of Africa Cup of Nations, namely the 2015, 2017, and 2019 editions, with them finishing as runner-up in the last edition. He’s also in Senegal’s squad in the ongoing edition of Africa Cup of Nations (2021) actually captaining his team.
No doubt that Mane is one of the
Senegal best football players in 2021
and the proof to that is a number of individual awards he has won to this date including a Premier League Golden Boot and an Onze d'Or trophy both in 2018-19 season, African Footballer of the Year award in 2019 and IFFHS Best CAF Men's Player of the Year in 2020, but that’s not all. Mane is Senegal’s second top scorer of all time with 28 goals and considering that he’s only one goal behind the nation’s top scorer of all time, Henri Camara, and has around 10 years of his career before him, there is a high probability that he’ll become Senegal’s top scorer of all time sooner or later.
Other than that, he holds the record for the fastest hat-trick scored in the Premier League history - three goals in 176 seconds in a 6-1 win against Aston Villa in 2015 - and also became the first player in the major English league history to have scored in nine consecutive games against the same opponent when he scored his 100th Premier League goal against Crystal Palace in September 2021 also becoming the third African footballer in the history of English top-tier league to have reached that milestone (100 goals).
Mane is described by his teammates and former footballers as a complete player with high degrees of intensity and concentration and a world-class winger who can score with both of his feet as well as his head just like Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s also an intelligent player who can get himself into good goalscoring positions or create chances for his teammates, and although he can score with both his feet, his preferred foot is right; that’s why he’s more comfortable with playing on the left flank where he can cut inside and shoot with his preferred foot for a better chance of scoring.
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